Adam Baldwin is a shaper from Australia’s, Queensland Sunshine Coast but he doesn’t use the same materials as everyone else… He uses recycled rubbish. We had a quick chat with Adam to find out more about Reclaim surf (formerly Skatement). What inspired him to take this path and what he hopes for the future.
BTR: Let’s start in the beginning? How did you get into shaping and who inspired you?
AB: So I turn 45 this month and I have been surfing since I was about 10. As an adult I have always been the kind of person that gets a trades person in and then watches intently and then did the job myself, painting, plastering, plumbing, framing walls, tiling, you name it. I had a student in my class in 2008 who was right into downhill skateboarding, and I went down a rabbit hole of research and creating custom skate decks. Skate decks that I have made have been to more countries around the world than I have. America, Peru, and all over Europe competing in IDF world cup races and free riding. The attention to detail and the focus on building processes with complex epoxy lay ups allowed me to transition back to surfboards.
I think I made my first surfboard in 2013. It’s was a compsand with eps in the middle and skateboard sized veneers vacuum bagged to the outside and sealed with straight epoxy resin. It’s a little heavy but I still surf it these days every now and then. The vacuum bag compsand concept was mainly inspired by Grant Newby who pretty much pioneered a process with that idea, he even gets royalties from firewire associated with the timbertech construction. Buuuut the biggest influence would probably be Matt Williams from @thefactorysurfboards in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. I used to work at the Caloundra Highschool which was about a few hundred metres from his factory. He was the guy who helped me transition my skills with 16 oz dual bias boat building cloth and carbon fibres to glassing surfboards with 4 oz and 6 oz cloths. Then, left me alone in his shaping bay and said “lock up when you leave”. I mean who does that. But, it was a 2 way thing, when I met him he had never used epoxy and I was all about epoxy, since then we have shared lots of cool experiences. He now has an expanded factory with a shaping machine and has more skills with epoxy than you can shake a stick at. His epoxy strigerless, finless boards, refined from his time as Tom Wegener’s apprentice, are at the cutting edge of what’s possible on a finless board.
BTR: You have been making boards from recycled rubbish. What sparked the idea, How do they ride, and do you see yourself making more boards from recycled trash than normal materials?
AB: Lets face it, I don’t surf at a level where the materials are SUPER important, I can do some nice carving turns, get barreled and surprise myself every now and again. My fundamentals are pretty good but when I see video footage I feel that I look pretty ugly. The boards I have made for myself and that others have riden have had very positive feedback. I made one for 2 time gold cone piece award winning surf journalist, Jed Smith from the Aint That Swell podcast and he was very happy with how it performed. With it, I used the building foam offcuts, laminated together with a cedar stringer. But I experimented with too much of a sealing process combined with a performance glass job that was super light and he found it was getting significant foot depressions in it.
What sparked the idea?
Initially it was because I felt guilty spending money on surf boards or material to make them. My nephew worked for a company that makes EPS mouldings for the building industry, things to be attached to the outside of buildings and then rendered to look like solid concrete. The factory had a lot of waste every week, and it’s melted down to save space. It used to be sent to China for recycling or sent to land fill, so I used that inside connection to gain access to free Rubbish that can be used to shape boards from. Since then I have developed a few little tricks to reuse FCS 2 fin boxes and of course leggie plugs are easy to remove and reuse. I have a network of people who will give me old broken boards before they put them in the trash and I use the bits I can in new boards and the foam to make hand planes. Although I mainly make hand planes out of scraps of wood. I have also So I guess I pretty much make everything out of some kind of recycled product.
BTR: COVID-19 has slowed down international shipping to the US which is creating more business for local shapers. Is the same thing happening in AU? How is COVID-19 affecting the shapers in your area?
AB: From all the people I know in the surf industry, who make custom bespoke kind of boards, their orders are through the roof, busier than Christmas.
I was planning on ordering a board, but my mate Matt from Factory has such a wait time due to Massive influx of orders I ended up starting two projects in my shed. A reshaped of an old beater mal into an asym snub nose thing and I bit the bullet and bought a Marko foam blank and started a 5’8” board inspired by some stuff I have seen Album doing over near you in San Clemete.
BTR: Besides shaping, you work with a high-school surf academy. How do the kids at the academy view the surf industry? Are they pumped to support their local surf shop or do they see no difference between surf shops and beach inspired clothing stores?
AB: The group we have “at the moment” is full of younger kids out of the 16 places in the program, that draws from grade 7- grade 12 we are filled with year 7, 8, and 9 students. Too be honest they are not very aware of the surf industry outside of the boards they ride and the board they want for their birthday. Many of them ride hand me down second hand sleds from older kids in the area, often sponsored kids. Which makes sense at this age as they are growing and developing at a great rate. Which means spending around 1000 dollars (AUD) on a new board that will last a few months before the next growth spurt is a bit much for most families.
BTR: If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about surfboard manufacturing, what would it be?
AB: Mate that’s a hard one. Make a surfboard retail price jump to 2000 (AUD) for a custom, and it just be accepted. Make off the rack boards obsolete. Make it worth the shapers effort to try earth friendly building processes, Make REAL earth friendly processes the norm and green washed half truths more obvious. Make the average surfer more accountable. Buuuuttt, I’m pretty pessimistic about the state of things in general. Some days I feel positive and others I’m really glad I chose not to have children.
BTR: Any advice for the surf industry?
AB: Be true to your humanity, I have come across the most amazing humble sharing humans in the shaping fraternity, but early on when i was getting started i was kind of black listed bad mouthed and then blocked. But the good people I have met make it worth it.
Like the day I have Tom Wegener come and speak to the kids at school. I introduced him and what he was doing and how it was at the cutting edge of new directions in enviro friendly surfboard creations. He paused at the beginning of his address and said that “I” was “one of his heros”, that he was “inspired by me” and my back yard rubbish builds.
Days when I feel super down on surfboard builds, life getting in the way, not surfing enough etc, I think of that.
One final word.
John Gillis, total legend!!! Those that know, will know.